Monday, September 17, 2012

Putting on your Test Hat

I have noticed a real divide between development and test in every company I have worked in. Perhaps this is an Irish attitude? I say this because I don't see much about it coming out of the US in any blogs I follow etc. The tell-tale sign I most often see is a really poor attitude from developers towards the QA team. There is often arrogance and border-line bullying taking place. It can be summarised as "Devs are better than test" and "test should do what we say". There is a real under-appreciation for the role of QA and SDET and a belief that QA are somehow below Developers - because if they were any good they'd all be developers right? This attitude completely stinks.

I have worked in a bank, automotive diagnostics, enterprise software and consumer web and I have found this attitude present in all industries to varying degrees. "Throw it over the wall" is commonly heard in teams like these. Devs write some code, check it quickly in whatever version of whatever browser they happen to have open and throw it over to QA to test and move on to their next task. They are then surprised when there are several bugs opened against the code. I often see devs try to influence QA or weasel out of responsibilities. "It's not a bug really", "We don't have time to fix that now" etc. This is typical. There is a quite a lot of time wasted logging bugs and screenshots, communicating and tracking issues and the actual re-work to fix issues that could have been prevented if the developers cared more about testing (not just unit testing, although that would be a start...). Testing is not something that is solely the responsibility of the QA team. If you are developer and you do not test your code then I do not want to work with you.

 I found it very interesting reading the following blog post on Google Testing Blog that Google Developers perform testing to a certain standard before handing over testing to the Software Engineers in Test. They call this "testing 1.0" using tools such as WebDriver and FIO. This raises the bar on quality and reduces the amount of re-work necessary (the schedule-killer...). I love this idea. We are all one team and we are all responsible for creating the best product we can to the highest standard we can. There is no "throwing it over the wall" in a team like that. I will push to add some testing 1.0 to our criteria for committing new code. The developers will benefit from putting on their QA hats and gain an appreciation of the subtleties of testing, not to mention reducing the amount of bugs they will have to work on.

We run fast in the company I work for. We run fast and sometimes quality suffers. Sometimes bad things happen. We fix them and move on. Keep moving forward, keep shipping. The most difficult part of introducing the type of changes that would improve quality is convincing people who enjoy the fast-paced nature of the culture that they need to slow down a little. This is a tough sell to some developers and senior managers. I would say the best chance of succeeding to introduce change in an environment like this is not to criticize the current process or try to formalize things too much. Just a little incremental improvement here and there and try to shift attitudes a little. For example, write a wiki article on how you installed and configured tool-X to help with testing your code. Get your fellow devs to read the article and make it as simple as possible for them to follow you. Measure. Measure the bug count against you in the previous project against the bug count using a higher standard of pre-commit testing in a new project. Everything is easier to sell with hard data to back it up. I have thought long and hard about how to influence and introduce change from the bottom-up in companies. I at one time came to the conclusion that you simply can't. It's too hard. That it has to come from the top down. Well maybe it does. But if I can influence people even a tiny bit in my team and our little bubble improves quality maybe we can influence other teams and managers that this is an approach worth following.